Jimmy Creed and jockey Garrett Gomez win the Grade I, $300,000 Malibu Stakes. (Benoit Photo )
There were trainer Richard Mandella, veteran owner and mogul B. Wayne Hughes … and KISS frontman Gene Simmons in the winner's circle after the $300,000 Malibu Stakes on Wednesday at Santa Anita Park.
Posing, pictures and polite chatter.
What did Mandella and Simmons have to talk about after Hughes' stubborn chestnut colt named Jimmy Creed won the Grade I race for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs?
"I wanted to sing a little bit and see if he might pick me up for the band," joked Mandella, Jimmy Creed's trainer. "I couldn't think of anything to sing."
Simmons created a bit of a buzz at the track even though one fan confused him with fitness personality Richard Simmons. It appears as though the rocker is going to be assisting Santa Anita in something of a marketing capacity.
"When I was a little kid, I saw the movies, the stars, Clark Gable, Cary Grant," Simmons said. "There was a culture and they went to the racetracks for the horses. And to be with people.
"We're going to bring celebrities. Beautiful people. The cool people. Because this deserves to be the coolest thing on Planet Earth."
Or the hottest.
You might say the opening day of Santa Anita's winter-spring meeting hit a wide range of notes. Morning rain and the threat of continued inclement conditions kept away many fans from the track and prompted two races to be moved off the grass.
Even though the rain and gloom were long gone by the afternoon and the track took on its usual postcard setting, attendance for Day 1 was 27,273, a drop from 44,579 on opening day a year ago.
The total handle, which included out-of-state wagering, was close to $13.5 million.
Jimmy Creed, who paid $19.20 to win, may have taken away the big prize. But earlier in the day jockey Rafael Bejarano had a vintage performance, riding four winners. And jockey Martin Pedroza recorded his 3,500th victory, aboard Stoneside in the second.
Bejarano practically took ownership of Santa Anita in the span of about an hour and a half with three victories in three consecutive races: Book Review's tight, thrilling win in the $300,000, Grade I La Brea Stakes; Silentio in the Grade II Sir Beaufort Stakes; and the promising 2-year-old Belvin in the sixth.
Bejarano rode Book Review and Belvin for trainer Bob Baffert and Silentio for Gary Mandella. The filly Book Review upset favored My Miss Aurelia, who placed third.
For the Mandellas, it was a hugely memorable afternoon for father (Richard) and son (Gary).
It was Jimmy Creed's first race since he finished a disappointing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Nov. 3. The Lumber Guy, who was second in that race, finished seventh in the Malibu Stakes.
Jimmy Creed was named for Hughes' cousin, who lives in Tulsa, Okla. During his post-race interview, Hughes was handed a bottle of vodka and joked about his cousin, "He can't have the Grey Goose. He's 83. But he would drink it. He's still pretty much with it."
As for the horse, he seems to have a bit of stubborn streak. Apparently Jimmy Creed had issues with dirt in his face at the Breeders' Cup but worked through it, owner and trainer said.
"He's always given us the feeling he's a very good horse," Mandella said. "If you look back at his races, other than the Breeders' Cup, he always gave me that same feeling.
"Nobody wants dirt thrown in their face the first time. They [the horses] are so competitive. If you just give them a little experience at it, most of 'em overcome it. He wouldn't. He was stubborn. He'd blow his nose."